Nothing about Arianna Huffington joining Uber is surprising
Nothing about Arianna Huffington joining the Uber board is surprising.
The bipartisan backlash isn’t surprising. Yes, most Uber critics are experiencing outrage fatigue over the least ethical company in Silicon Valley. And, yes, negative stories about Uber usually bring out an equal and opposite chorus of pro-Uber trolls.
Unfortunately, “Arianna joins Uber” is a special case: A headline guaranteed to inflame the left (which hates Uber), the right (which hates Arianna) and journalists (who love nothing more than to eat their own over ethical violations.) So, in this case, the backlash isn’t surprising at all. What’s surprising is that Huffington apparently didn’t see it coming.
That Huffington and Travis Kalanick have become such good friends isn’t surprising. For all her posing as a leftist champion of the working class (and for all of her anti-Trump bluster), Huffington has almost everything in common with Kalanick.
Both have become obscenely wealthy by building companies that exploit underpaid amateurs to “disrupt” professionals (cab drivers, journalists). Both are extremely political (Huffington has been a political figure much longer than she’s been a journalistic one, Kalanick employs half the state department and spends a small fortune on lobbyists). And both have been accused of threatening and smearing journalists who cross them. Kalanick you know about, but Huffington? Yep! Here’s Maureen Orth in 1994, writing in Vanity Fair about Michael and Arianna Huffington…
Although Arianna denies that she has ever threatened anyone who worked for them, one aide who left claims that Arianna told her, “You ever say anything about us and I’ll come back and try to pin things on you.” There’s been similar intimidation in California. “Arianna and Michael Huffington know not to threaten people with ‘You’ll never work in this town again,’” says Hazel Blankenship. They exerted pressure, for example, to have Jerry Cornfield, the Santa Barbara News-Press reporter assigned to cover Huffington, replaced; they complained about him to the editor and refused to acknowledge his queries. Cornfield soon left the paper.
Compare Uber’s “Nobody would know it was us.” with Arianna’s “You ever say anything about us and I’ll come back and try to pin things on you.”
Oh, and by the way, Huffington was a VIP guest at the “off the record” dinner whether Uber’s Emil Michael made that threat. When asked about it afterwards, Huffington claimed not to have heard Michael’s comments. When asked whether she would have reported the threat if she had heard it, she declined to respond.
That Huffington is a hypocrite isn’t surprising.
Those of us who recall the implosion of TechCrunch might be shocked at Huffington’s hypocrisy. Remember, Huffington fired Mike Arrington as EIC of TechCrunch (leading to a mass exodus of writers) because of the gigantic conflict posed by him simultaneously investing in companies his site might cover.
Now Huffington, who is EIC of Huffington Post, sits on the board of a company that the site covers constantly and that is worth infinitely more than most of Mike’s crappy investments, including his small stake in… Uber (Disclosure: Michael Arrington is an investor in Pando).
Yesterday, Om Malik said that Arianna should either resign or apologise to Mike (or both). She should, but of course she won’t.
No one who knows anything about Mike’s ouster was under any illusions that it had anything to do with a conflict of interest. As I wrote at the time, it had everything to do with Arianna wanting to consolidate power and silence the only other AOL-owned editor who might challenge her. She forced the ever-pathetic Tim Armstrong to choose between a $26m editor and a $300m editor and, duh, he chose the more valuable one.
Finally, that sites like Re/Code are eating up Huffington’s horseshit explanation that she’s joining Uber’s board because they both care about drowsy driving isn’t surprising.
After all, it was Re/Code that gave Kalanick a platform to launch his “political campaign” against an “asshole named taxi”. They (along with their colleagues at Business Insider, TechCrunch and any other publication that needs Kalanick on stage at its conferences -- and/or, in the case of TechCrunch, is owned by HuffPost’s parent company) have consistently failed to ask tough questions of the company. In fact, as of 9pm last night, neither TechCrunch nor BI had covered the Huffington news at all. So there’s no reason to expect they would point out that Uber has repeatedly been criticised for encouraging drivers to work insanely long hours to boost their earnings, resulting in ridiculous situations like this one. Joining Uber to combat drowsy driving is like joining McDonald’s to combat chicken nuggets.
So, no, nothing about Arianna and Uber is surprising.
But not surprising.